I was looking at my Unity pictures today, and wishing it was still under construction with the cranes there as it was one of my favourite explores last year. But I suppose that's how it goes - things come and go. Similarly the Royal Insurance Building is all sealed up and I'd really like to get back in there.
So anyway, I thought I'd post some pictures of my favourite Liverpool explores of 2006 and explain how they came about.
By this time I was really getting into exploring, and the opportunity arose to get into the Cunard Building's basement. I'd been working on this for a while, since I'd seen pictures in the Maritime Museum of luggage racks and paperwork. Surely enough, it was found, and I was rather impressed with what had been left behind...
Towards the end of 2005 some evening 'photography sessions' became scaffolding climbing missions, and together with local pal 'reefdog' things escalated pretty quick. One night we were marvelling at the Unity development and it's huge cranes from behind the Thistle, and we walked away saying 'We could do that...'. A few weeks later I was standing at the top of the tower enjoying a cool breeze and breathtaking views. The satisfaction I felt was immense!
Since becoming more aware of disused buildings, I'd gone to check out the Infirmary on London Road. This set of buildings had always impressed me, but on inspection I found it firmly closed up. Still, a little sniffing about and I'd located someone who could give me an unofficial look round, so a date was set. Once inside the buildings were fascinating, with a lot of original features intact, including the unique circular wards and the bed 'plaques' showing donations made by prominent wealthy Liverpudlians over the last century.
Towards the end of March, the opportunity came to have a go at conquering a recently discovered fear - heights. Until I tried climbing a crane in 2005 I thought I had no problem with heights, but it hadn't gone too well. So one cold night I met up with a couple of Southern explorers to give 'Big Unity' (as I'd named it) a go. This climb went pretty well, and although most of my photos weren't very good it helped prepare me for things to come.
April & May
During these months most of my exploring activities took place outside of Liverpool, but I did manage to get back to somewhere I'd stumbled upon I while earlier. The old scrapyard at Seaforth was full of interesting junk (and still is), and walking through there alone was eerie. I kept expecting Sand People to appear up on the mounds!
Future exploring buddy Frank had pointed out that the Royal Insurance Building on Dale Street was empty. Several late night 'recces' with reefdog had yielded a fat load of nothing. We'd seen a way in, but it would involve ropes and a risky climb. Literally a couple of days before we were going to give it 'the attempt', another friend mentioned that he'd seen an easy way in. Heading back, we had a better look and found a dead easy entrance. It was a warm summer evening, and the building was full of surprises.
Up on the roof, it was just good to stand and look out across the city and enjoy the warm air. Back inside the building we'd found plenty of interesting architecture, and no vandalism either. Over subsequent visits in the following months we discovered a comprehensive air-raid shelter in the basement.
This month was one of the most productive Liverpool-wise. A chance comment from someone on another forum brought the Heap Rice Mill to my awareness. A few days later I thought I'd seen the only feasible way in. A day after that we'd been for a closer look - one more week and we were in. Two fairly lengthy explores uncovered a whole range of machinery, silos, attics and basements.
Back in January I'd been to check out an old hydraulic tower by Birkenhead's East Float dock. We'd played around there years back on our bikes and I'd never thought to go inside. The way in had been firmly bricked up back then, but on a chance look in July we found an easy way in. Up in the tower was the best surprise - a huge iron spiral staircase leading up to the balcony, followed by a series of wooden ladders leading past the domed ceiling of the tower and out onto the top.
Neither of these could beat one of the best explores I've ever done. For years I'd wanted to enter the depths of the Tobacco Warehouse, and thanks to the motivation of two Midlands explorers we managed to find a tricky, dodgy but ultimately successful way in.
Once inside, the workers' grafitti told a story of it's own, and quite a lot of original lifting gear, presses and signs were to be found. I went back once more a few months later, and it was no less amazing then. One of the most fun things was looking down at all the people in the market who had no idea we were up above!
Soon enough the warm summer evenings were beginning to disappear, but still more exploring opportunities were arising. Scaffolding on Martins Bank was scaled one night, giving a fairly unique view of the city skyline. Photos from here made up one of my first panoramics, and it still remains my favourite one. Although we were worried we might get dragged off the roof by CID in black helicopters, nothing of the sort happened! The only casualty was the lens on my new SLR which from that point on was fixed with glue...
Pictures from inside the Tate & Lyle conveyor tower suddenly appeared on the 28DL forum, only days after I'd noticed the place was empty and easily accessible. Quickly I made an effort to get in there, and was amazed. A true time capsule, full of machinery, log books, porcelain fuse boxes and mighty conveyor equipment. Unfortunately when I visited in January much of it had been vandalised and smashed.
Probably the highlight of August though was the Victoria Clock Tower. I'd managed to get to it twice before, but it had always been boarded up. This time though it was wide open, and inside was some pretty amazing grafitti, the remains of the bell and an absolute swamp of pigeon muck. Undeterred we made it to the top both at night and during the day, and both times I thoroughly enjoyed it!
In September I went on my first proper adventure into the north docks, making it to the scrapyard at Canada Dock before the Police collared us and we had to leave. Nonetheless it was good fun, and a nice way to spend a warm afternoon. On the way we found some interesting drains and tunnels by Bramley Moore Dock which still await proper exploration.
With darkness falling earlier in the evening, it was to construction sites that our attention turned. I'd looked at Kings Dock before but been put off by the number of cameras. One night though we managed to find a way in, and it was worth the effort. Photo opportunities galore, but we had to be careful as there were people working in there even at night.
Like so many of the other places I explored in 2006, I'd had my eye on the empty Exchange Buildings for ages. November saw the conquering of the rooftop, and subsequently the insides, although little of interest was to be found in there.
Finally in December together with local explorers Frank and TristanJay I went back to the Beetham West crane. Now raised to it's full height I knew the views would be good, although the climb was hard work. Getting to the top it was all worth it...